“Charlottesville: A renewed call for moral grandeur and spiritual audacity.”

OPINION

The following article and photos, which originally appeared in The Times of Israel on August 14, 2017, is republished in its entirety in jewishinfoNews with kind permission of its author Belle Jarniewski.

Belle Jarniewski

Several months ago, in the lead up to the American election, I found myself at an interfaith conference in Montreal. Susannah Heschel addressed the audience. Her powerful words, which seemed to be a clarion call, seem all the more important after Charlottesville. Heschel reminded us that the root of the Hebrew word alimut — violence is alef lamed mem — meaning elem “silence.” She asked us how we could dare abandon God to these fanatics — and certainly the white supremacists, neo-Nazis, KKK supporters and all the alt-right haters who have sprung up like poisonous mushrooms are indeed fanatics. With our silence, we allow violence and fanatics to proliferate. And finally, Heschel excoriated us…in particular “us” meaning liberal Jews, for having become “so insipid.”

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Rabbi Mordechai Liebling

We can be proud that rabbis such as Mordechai Liebling and other Jewish clergy and rabbinical students did not remain silent. They traveled to Charlottesville to take part in the counter-rally and spoke out. Some Jewish organizations have spoken out as well. Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett condemned the rally and called on US leaders to denounce anti-Semitism.

Liebling’s voice was in support of something broader: “It’s really important for Jews to be visible in this space and stand up for love and for God and for democracy… it is important to make sure that each of is us is treated as we are in the image of God.” Like Susannah Heschel’s late father, Civil Rights activist, Abraham Joshua Heschel, of blessed memory, Liebling was referring to the rights of all Americans.

But where are the voices of the rest America’s faith leaders? And what of faith leaders in Canada and the rest of the world? As a Canadian, I am all too aware that my country is not immune from the venomous hatred of white supremacists. The US Catholic bishops have spoken out in very clear terms condemning the rising tide of racism that resulted in the ugly rally. But where are the voices of the liberal Protestant social gospel tradition that have so easily found the words to criticize Israel over the complexity of the last 50 years in the West Bank?

A recent article in “The Atlantic” reveals that some faith leaders belonging to this group have been crystal clear in their condemnation, connecting white supremacy and asking their followers to rebuke it “in the name of Jesus.” Others have been oddly vague, if not veering on tepid. They speak of hope and love without condemning the hate. While some Evangelical pastors have not even mentioned the words “racism” or “white supremacy,” others (the Southern Baptists) have referred to the alt-right white-supremacist ideologies as “the anti-Christ and satanic to the core.” No mention of a response from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon) was included in the article.But where are the voices of the rest America’s faith leaders? And what of faith leaders in Canada and the rest of the world? As a Canadian, I am all too aware that my country is not immune from the venomous hatred of white supremacists. The US Catholic bishops have spoken out in very clear terms condemning the rising tide of racism that resulted in the ugly rally. But where are the voices of the liberal Protestant social gospel tradition that have so easily found the words to criticize Israel over the complexity of the last 50 years in the West Bank?

The “Atlantic” article referred only to Christian voices. It is essential that leaders of all faiths — Jewish (of all denominations) Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Baha’i, Sikh and Indigenous speak out. Make no mistake. We cannot afford to be insipid, nor can we abandon God with our silence. Don’t wait for miracles. The responsibility to speak out and to act is ours.

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Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel at Selma (front row second from right)

In 1963, when President Kennedy invited Abraham Joshua Heschel to the White House, he sent the following telegram: “Please demand of religious leaders personal involvement, not just solemn declaration. We forfeit the right to worship God as long as we continue to humiliate Negroes. Church and synagogue have failed. They must repent. Ask of religious leaders to call for national repentance and personal sacrifice … The hour calls for moral grandeur and spiritual audacity.”

That hour is once again upon us. It is time for all faith leaders to speak out strongly unified by a call to action. A renewed call for repentance and personal sacrifice. A renewed call for moral grandeur and spiritual audacity.

Belle Jarniewski has chaired the Freeman Family Foundation Holocaust Education Centre of the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada since 2008. Since 2013, she has served on the federally appointed delegation to IHRA—the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. She is also the current President of the Board of Directors of the Manitoba Multifaith Council. 

Bigotry, hatred, and viciousness takes on a new meaning.

No where in the world can one match the bigotry, hatred, and viciousness of the antisemite. As Jews, we can clearly identify with the memories of our friends in the Rwandan Tutsi community. Their issues are our issues. Holocaust and genocide and the pure lust of slaughtering children and adults by the perpetrators must never be forgotten.
The following article explains in part how western media and NGOs today, twenty-three years after the 1994 genocide, have begun to explain the Rwandan genocide against Tutsi. The article’s content is alarming.

The Underlying Racism behind Western Media’s Anti-Rwanda Hysteria.

Dayo Ntwari JIN August 3

by Dayo Ntwari

The implicitly racist language with which western media and “NGOs” spread their anti-Rwanda hate, the closer Rwanda gets to the 2017 presidential elections is deeply disturbing. There is a lie that is being pushed in western media, one of an alleged “climate of fear” in Rwanda. As I have said before on Twitter, there’s definitely a climate of fear. But it’s not in Rwanda. There’s a climate of fear about Rwanda. The fear that Rwanda will continue to rise. Nobody’s done more damage to Africa in modern times than these “progressive” Westerners of the Economist, HRW & Amnesty school of “thought”. The fear about Rwanda is that our country is increasingly a symbol of inspiration on our continent. An example of a break from chronic subjugation. So when you’ve got a government in Rwanda that puts Rwandan interests first and will NOT be another African vassal state, OF COURSE western colonialist interests will fear this.

This video clip tweeted by The Economist follows the same racist footsteps. A central lie about President Paul Kagame is presented as fact: “Why are his people so frightened of him?”

In usual fashion, the Economist attempts to downgrade President Kagame’s respectability, by referring to him as “Kagame”, instead of “President Kagame”. This happens with all African leaders who don’t toe the Western line. You rarely see an American or European head of state not addressed along with their title, in western reporting. This chauvinistic ignoring of political/governmental roles is reserved for Africans and other dark-skinned folks of the “Global South”.

rwandaOne of the more glaring displays of how much the Economist despises Rwandans can be seen in the Economist’s attempt to minimize the Genocide Against the Tutsi: “Genocide of more than half a million people.The majority were Tutsis, but many moderate Hutu were also killed.”It’s come down to half a million now? Each year, I observe how western media takes a hundred thousand off the number of victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi. One day, they will tell us only three people were killed in the Genocide, and they will stop calling it a genocide, all together.

genocide rwandaNext, the Economist presents a single African voice who regurgitates the desired narrative about Rwanda: the ex-Prime Minister of Rwanda. First the Economist tries to convince you of the ex-Prime Minister’s credibility: the ex-PM tells you he lost 30 family members during the Genocide against the Tutsi. You are now expected to take everything else that comes out of his mouth as the incontestable truth. The Ex-PM then tells us (from his house in Belgium), that we Rwandans are living in tyranny here in Rwanda. He claims it’s a dictatorship, no freedom of speech, etc.

The Economist attempts to manufacture an image of President Kagame as a warlord. This is imagery that the Western audience is most familiar with, when talking about Africans with a military background: warlord, child soldiers, etc. The Economist tells you Pres. Kagame “has kept the peace at home, even as he’s pursued wars against neighbouring Congo.” No further elaboration is provided. A B-roll of supposedly African IDPs or refugees is played in the clip. That’s it. But what wars? What were the wars about? No further explanation. This just serves to flesh out the portrait of this African “tyrant” who wakes up in the morning and goes to war, simply because it is in his nature. That is the prevailing Western view about Africans. We are savages, because without the aid and approval of our white masters, we have no option but to sink into animal savagery. The insidiousness of the White Saviour Industrial Complex, is how it couches this deeply racist dogma inside seemingly caring and benevolent narrative.

Next up in the video clip, “Paul Collier Prof. of Economics – Oxford University”. This snippet from the professor is meant to prevent you from recognizing the fundamental malice in the Economist’s narratives against Rwanda. Prof. Collier tells us President Kagame has had his biggest success in “the reduction of mass poverty, which has been quite exceptional by African standards.” This is simply not true. Nevermind the condescension behind the phrasing “by African standards”. Poverty reduction rates in Rwanda have been exceptional by WORLDstandards! Not just “African standards”. According to a 2013 report, by Prof. Collier’s very same Oxford University’s poverty and human development initiativeRwanda is among the “star performers” in poverty reduction levels, and identified as a place “where deprivation could disappear within the lifetime of present generations.” Tyranny? A media house of the West, where the wealth gap is an ever-widening chasm, where the richest 1% own as much as the rest of the planet combined, will have us believe Rwanda is a tyranny.

Well, the Economist continues its paternalistic dismissal of the agency of the Rwandan electorate, by framing the Kigali Convention Center as an epitome of “Kagame’s economic vision for Rwanda”. As, if we Rwandans are a mass of 12 million helpless children who are suffering at the mercy of a single man’s whim. Not once does the Economist acknowledge even in passing, that ours is a collective vision for our country. According to the Economist we probably don’t even understand what the word economy means, and therefore The Economist is here to save us from our own ignorance, right?

The Economist goes on to state that “some economists now talk of the Rwandan miracle.” This is immediately followed by presenting once again the “exiled” former PM of Rwanda: who is quick to remind us that “Kagame’s rule is based on tyranny. There is no freedom of speech”. You will hear this a lot, “freedom of speech” as the allegedly universal yardstick of a country’s level of democracy. There is freedom of speech in the United States, however the U.S. has the planet’s largest prison population, by far the planet’s largest military budgets and is at any given point engaged in dozens of wars and proxy-wars under the nebulous umbrella of the so-called War on Terror.

To the Economist, the ex Rwandan PM’s baseless accusations supersede all that anyone of us 12 million Rwandans have to say. The ex-PM’s unfounded accusations supersede any established statistics and facts presented, be they from Oxford University, the UN, World Bank or anybody else. No. This one guy here … actually he’s in Belgium in “exile”, is trying to convince us here in Rwanda that we’re all blind and stupid and just don’t understand we’re living in “tyranny”.

The Economist continues, and says the ex-PM “challenged Kagame for the presidency” in 2003 and then states “in the official result, Kagame took 95% of the vote.” Then the Economist claims the victory was rigged. Another lie, presented as fact, with no supporting evidence whatsoever. 2003 were the first presidential elections in Rwanda since the Genocide against the Tutsi. And the Economist appears to be somehow shocked that the man behind the liberation of Rwanda from Genocide, when the whole world turned their backs on us and left us to die, got 95% of the vote? It’s like claiming Jay-Z rigged record sales because he sold tons more records than Lil Mama.

This is quickly followed by the ex-PM telling you how living in Belgium, away from Rwanda, has affected him psychologically. This is meant to shore up further sympathy for the ex-PM and make you malleable to swallowing his claims without any scrutiny. This poor guy, he’s sitting with his laptop in Belgium, thinking about us and missing us so much. Awww, poor guy, hm? He states he “must live freely in his country”. Well, if that is his genuine wish, why not hop on the next RwandAir flight back to Kigali, instead of trolling us from afar and being a puppet of neocolonialist lies against Rwanda?

The Economist tells us that “in reality Rwanda is a one-party state”. Yet another lie, presented as truth, with no further explanation or evidence. Here The Economist also lies by omission. It conveniently omits the easily verifiable fact that in Rwanda’s Constitution, under Article 62, it is stated clearly

“a political organisation holding the majority of seats in the Chamber of Deputies cannot have more than fifty (50%) percent of Cabinet members”.

So, a multi-party system is explicitly guaranteed by our Constitution. The only time The Economist even mentions our Constitution is to allege that in 2015 the RPF “ushered through a constitutional change which could in theory allow him to remain as president until 2034.” Notice the language used here: “constitutional change”. You see, in the framework of the White Saviour Industrial Complex, the following mental acrobatics are always adhered to:

“constitutional amendment” = perfectly normal process in White people democracy
“constitutional change” = African savages living in tyranny

The Economist commits another lie by omission: they don’t tell you that the amendments to the Rwandan Constitution came by a national referendum. Again, the perpetual outright rejection of the political agency and self-determination of an African people. The White Saviour Industrial Complex did not authorize our national referendum, therefore it must be considered null and void.

Again, Prof. Collier of Oxford gives his opinion in which he implies Rwanda is an autocracy. No evidence to support this is provided, and by doing so you are expected to assume this is so trivial a fact, it is so obvious it needs no verbose provision of supporting evidence. The white man said Rwanda is an autocracy, so it must be true.

Towards the end of this racist video clip, the Economist refers to our government as a “regime”. This is a standard approach by Western media when talking about any government in the so-called Global South that does not dance to the tune of the Masters of the so-called Global North.

“administration” = your govt is either a Western govt, or useful to the West, but not likely useful to you.

“regime” = your govt is useful to you, but not useful to the West.

There is a deep and casual implicit racism in the narrative peddled by the likes of the Economist and other “well-meaning” pseudo-progressive Western outlets. And this implicit racism is easily identifiable in the language used when describing the people of the African continent. These Western faux-liberal media houses call our leaders “strongman”“despot”,“tyrant”. They call our governments “regime”“junta”“militia”“rebels”. They tell you our political systems are “autocratic”“dictatorial”“tyrannical”, and that our countries are under a “climate of fear”, and “repression”. They tell you the so-called opposition is “imprisoned”“murdered”“exiled” and so on.

This deeply racist language comes from a historically colonialist mindset: the African is an animal incapable of viable human life, unless he is uplifted and controlled by the Western hand. This colonialist mindset that has been perpetuated since Europeans first came to the African continent to exploit and subjugate its peoples, this racist wannabe-progressive narrative will never change until the Western mind is fundamentally decolonized.

Publisher’s Comment: The above article written by Dayo Ntwari and republished in full, can be viewed on Mr. Ntwari website 

Fighting the good fight. Has it left the Jewish Community?

“Diaspora Jews. I have a sense we just don’t care anymore!”

by Alan Simons

Why is it, I wonder, Diaspora Jews are willing to show as a group how philanthropic and ardent they are towards raising funds and giving their time and support towards non-Jewish distresses, such as the Rwandan Tutsi, the people of South Sudan, the ethnic rights of minorities in Burma, Canada’s First Nations, and currently Syrian refugees? Yet, as individuals, why do we continue to be uncomfortable to willingly expose ourselves, to open our arms favourably, towards Christian, Muslim and other individuals? Why do many in the Diaspora treat non-Jews with utmost suspicion?

Yes, our long standard tradition of tikkun olam (repairing the world), tzedek (righteousness) and gemilut chassadim (acts of lovingkindness) are renown and respected by non-Jews. But more and more these days we repetitively remain on the sidelines in showing support to those who fight the good fight.

JIN RCMP dThis past Sunday I had the honour of being invited to the inaugural 2017 Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)/IDI GTA Intercultural Ramadan Friendship Dinner. Organised by the Intercultural Dialogue Institute GTA., the event was held at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto.

To put the importance of this Canadian event into perspective, the RCMPs media advisory reported:

“This occasion demonstrated a gesture of mutual respect and partnership between community and law enforcement.

In attendance were the Chiefs of Police and dignitaries from Government offices. This occasion also included Canada’s 150 year celebration.

The IDI has been working closely with the RCMP and policing partners in the Greater Toronto Area to promote social cohesion, personal interaction, respect and mutual understanding among people through dialogue and partnership. The RCMP Integrated National Security Enforcement Team – Public Engagement Unit has been very active in developing trusting relationships in the community to improve engagement and implement community programs.

‘What an incredible opportunity for us to interact with so many from the diverse communities we support,’ said Superintendent Lise Crouch, Assistant Criminal Operations Officer for National Security. ‘It is events such as this one that continues to remove barriers for our police officers. The police are members of so many communities and contribute both on and off duty. This friendship dinner highlights the strength in collaboration and respect.’ ”

JIN RCMP cOut of the countless hundreds attending from many faiths and cultures, I would hazard a guess there were no more than four Jews present, and certainly, no rabbi found the time to join the clergy from other faiths.

To my mind, I regard in the eyes of the Diaspora, this to be one further example of how the Jewish community has become more entrenched in its attitude of “us” and “them” and less willing as individuals to show where they stand on issues relating to interfaith/cultural (call it what you will) dialogue at the grass roots level.

What a missed opportunity to support those who are attempting to fight the good fight. As Elie Wiesel once said, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Diaspora Jews, take heed! Mutual respect and partnership are an integral part of our very being. I have a sense we just don’t care anymore!

(Photo credit: RCMP)

Alan Simons can be reached at alan@alansimons.info

COMMENTS

“I could not agree more, Alan Simons. Well said. Same issues here in Winnipeg. Proud of our Muslim Jewish Interfaith dialogue group, but we are not representative of the attitude of the “institutional Jewish community.” It’s more than just caring, Alan, it is massive ignorance about each other. We might be willing to donate a little money to make ourselves feel better but most Jews know nothing about Islam or Christianity and frankly harbour some horribly incorrect notions, yet purport to “know the truth.” However, other cities are doing better – Calgary for instance because of the example of true leadership by strong clergy in the Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities. The recent recognition by King Abdullah of Jordan reflects their exemplary achievement.”

-Belle Jarniewski, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada